The Netherlands

Little Secret

Photographer

Louise Adby

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[split]

Why did you choose to set up a museum dedicated to Saudi art in Amsterdam?

For the same reason that the library of Egypt collected Greek books. You learn if you collect what others make. I felt Saudis needed to be heard outside of the context of oil and Guantanamo bay.

What is the Arab community like in Amsterdam? Do you get visitors from the Middle East visiting the museum?

Yes, the museum does get visitors from the Middle East. What interests me about Saudi Arabia is not their Arabness, but their talent for unity. But you do have Arabs in Amsterdam. The museum works with one museologist of Moroccan extraction and he rides a bicycle. Last week I joined a short course to learn Arabic writing. Most students were young and educated Dutch-Moroccan women. That’s Amsterdam Arabia: many flavours at hand.

Why is it important that the museum remains independent?

Everything depends on something else. What is important is that art is not dominated by people whose primary job description is public relations.

What is it you enjoy the most about Middle Eastern culture?

I can’t speak for all of the Middle East but with Saudis it’s their talent for language and the urgency of their need to express themselves.